Water isn’t just essential for our life on this planet. It is also integral to the production processes for our daily goods and resources. Over 500 trillion liters of water are consumed worldwide each year. More than 70% of this is used on agricultural production and around 15% is consumed in industry.With the world facing a potential global shortage of water by 2050, we need to look at ways of using this vital resource more sustainably. Here is a breakdown of how water is used commercially at present, along with suggestions for improving the situation.
The overall consumption of global water supplies is referred to as the water footprint. This is the measure of freshwater used both directly (consumed for drinking, cleaning, etc. by households or organizations) and indirectly (water used to produce goods, energy, transport, etc.). Indirect use is sometimes referred to as ‘Hidden Water’ or ‘Virtual Water’.
The water footprint can be calculated in a number of ways to show how much water is used by individuals, countries, commercial sectors and even individual businesses. It consists of three components:
Agriculture is sometimes called “the thirstiest industry” because of the amount of water it consumes. 70% of global freshwater consumption is down to agricultural production, rising to over 90% in South Asia.
Water is used for many things in the agricultural production process, including irrigation for crop growth and animal feed, pesticide/fertilizer applications, machinery used in processing and cooling techniques, and goods transportation. Animal products (meat and dairy) are generally more water-intensive to produce.
Water footprints for individual products include:
Water is also used in the production processes for all industrial goods, from vehicles to small toys. Industries such as fashion and computer technology have a large water footprint. Every step of the process involves consumption of water, including operation of machinery to source raw materials such as metals and plastics, machinery to assemble goods, irrigation to grow materials (e.g. cotton for clothing), dyeing materials to produce goods such as clothing, diluting wastewater produced so that it doesn’t pollute waterways, and finally transportation.
Water footprints for products include:
Homes and businesses worldwide are powered by energy sources such as gas and electricity but what is not commonly known is that it takes a substantial amount of water to generate this power. It takes water to extract and refine raw fuels such as coal, oil and natural gas. Water is then used for cooling steam in thermoelectric power plants and for generating transportation fuels such as oil, natural gas and biofuels.
In the US alone, over 600 billion liters of water per day are used for thermoelectric plants and over 5 billion liters of water are consumed daily for petroleum products such as gasoline.
We need to take immediate action to avert the impending water crisis. We can do this by switching to more sustainable ways of using water supplies. For example, this could be through:
Water Experts provide tailored advice and guidance to businesses so that they can become more water-efficient. In addition to services such as water audits, BOSAQ also supplies the latest in sustainable drinking water technology such as our range of Q-Drop systems.